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Fred Wright was good in 2021, great in 2022, and hoping he might go galactic in years to come.
Hot off the back of a barnstorming 2022, Bahrain-Victorious‘ cobbles-busting, breakaway bothering Brit is eyeing out a big future.
“I’m only 23, I’ve still got my best years to come,” Wright told VeloNews. “This year was pretty good, and the year before that too. I feel like I’m still learning, still improving … it’s exciting to think where it could go.”
Wright made for a regular face in the TV lens this season. He punched into 12 grand tour top-10s and was inches from taking the tape at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Wright believes hitting the top-10 at Tour of Flanders, just a few seconds back from Tadej Pogačar, Dylan Van Baarle, and De Ronde winner Mathieu van der Poel, was the icing on a deliciously sweet season.
“Seventh in Flanders was almost the confirmation I needed for myself,” Wright said in a recent call.
“It was like, ‘yeh, you’re pretty good at this, you should be there among these guys.’ It was a confirmation of my strength that I’d not seen before. I had glimpses things were going well at the back end of 2021, but Flanders was a real ‘this is good’ moment.”
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At 23 years old, Wright was in the college class between 22-year-old Remco Evenepoel and 24-year-old Pogačar. Unlike the rocketship arrival of his superstar Gen-Z rivals, Wright landed in the center of the cycling world off the back of steady guts and grind.
“I think it’s all been adding up season after season, a development,” he said.
“Looking back, emotionally it’s amazing to be at the front of the Tour or Vuelta, it’s a dream come true. But as a technical, training perspective, it’s an accumulation of all the training I’ve put in through the past two years and what I think has been a steady progress that you could almost feel coming,” he continued. “And the way it’s going, I think there could be more”
From last-chance saloon to center of squad at Bahrain-Victorious
Wright’s blockbuster season didn’t deliver the victory Wright relentlessly wrestled for. But the Brit’s 2022 was more than enough for Bahrain-Victorious.
The team recently handed Wright a far-stretching contract extension through 2025 to make him one of the longest-contracted riders on the squad, and keep Wright right where he wants to be.
“I always knew from my own personal point of view I wanted to be here given the place I’ve found in the team, and the support I’ve got around me. With the plans we’ve got going forward and where I see myself in the next years, the team fits really well. Staying here, it was never in doubt,” he said.
Wright was reluctant to reveal whether others came calling for a contract this summer. His brimming palmarès no doubt would have made him a welcome addition to the richest of any roster.
“I don’t think I’d gain anything being in a potentially better team with bigger riders,” Wright said. “Looking at stage hunting and classics, I want to be a key man for the team, and I think I’ve progressed nicely to that.”
Wright moved toward the middle of the Bahrain-Victorious universe in 2022 and will be secure at its center in 2023.
The retirement of Sonny Colbrelli will see Wright share classics leadership with Matej Mohorič in the spring before he does his stage-hunting thing alongside the likes of Pello Bilbao and Mikel Landa through the summer’s grand tours.
It makes for some step up since Bahrain-McLaren plucked Wright from an uncertain future when the then-20-year-old’s stagiaire stint with CCC Team came to a close in 2019.
“It’s almost mad when you think about when I got the contract – it was my only offer. And now I’m at the point where I’m one of the key guys. It’s almost weird saying it,” Wright said. “I can’t wait for the next years.”
Ambitious triple-peak 2023
Wright is ambitious as ever as he hunts his elusive debut pro victory. He believes the lessons learned from a series of near-misses this season will reap dividends in races to come.
“I put myself in the position so many times this year that I don’t see why I can’t do it again next year,” he said. “It’s about using the experience I gained from before to create wins.”
Wright’s “work hard-rest harder” mindset helped him harvest results all through this year. He plans to copy-paste the approach into a three-peak 2023 with big goals at the Glasgow road worlds.
“I like the way the last year went and I want more of the same really,” Wright said.
“The aim is to be flying for Flanders and Roubaix, have a break after that, then be flying again at the Tour de France and the worlds after, then another break and maybe even have another peak toward the end of the season,” he continued. “It’s hard to do that three times, but it’s about the balance of having that time off, making sure you’re properly ‘off’ or properly ‘on’.”